top of page

Here We Go Again: History Redux

The Art and Science of Dioramas
Aaron Delehanty is a modern artist who works on dioramas at the Field Museum, Chicago. He creates detailed backgrounds and foregrounds for dioramas. He first became interested in making dioramas in elementary school when he made a depiction of 5 New York Native American Tribes. The intention of a diorama is to build a replica of a specific system and to do it with such precision they become time capsules. Field Museum is famous for its detailed dioramas. Dioramas became popular in the late 19th century, created by Carl Akeley. Akeley worked in the Milwaukee Field Museum and was termed the founder of dioramas. Before the late 19th century, taxidermized animals were put into glass cases that lined museum walls, which was boring. Akeley devised a better idea to allow the audience to be able to immerse themselves in the world of animals – through dioramas. His first diorama shows five muskrats, which also included their den, reeds, logs, and sediment.
They used taxidermized species in the dioramas to raise awareness for the endangered animals. President Theodore Roosevelt was known for supporting dioramas. To commemorate Akeley, the Field Museum created the Akeley Hall of African Mammals.
In 1890, Akeley taxidermized 4 striped hyenas, but because of the lack of displays they were never displayed in public or received enough care. In 2015, a fund supported by Emily Graslie raised $155,165 to the creation of a diorama for the hyenas. The diorama depicts the morning of August 6, 1896, at 5:30 AM, at the exact GPS coordinates where the hyenas were collected.
A team of scientists were sent to Somalia to view the natural habitats of the hyenas. In fact, Delehanty had to remake a small ball of poo that a dung beetle was pushing because “it was not fibrous enough.” Additionally, all of the rocks in the diorama were all shaped with chicken wire, making them extremely light.
Delehanty also helped construct a Field Museum diorama showcasing the Hemudu, a Chinese civilization form 5500-3300 BC. Hemudu learned to build homes on stilts. For the Cyrus Tang Hall of China, Delehanty placed puddles randomly throughout the village and had people interacting with them. If you look at the backdrop, there’s fog in the air. He also built the homes with floorboards made of popsicle sticks, speckling them with red paint to simulate blood stains because people usually went barefoot.

Poble Espanyol
Poble Espanyol (or Spanish Village), is an open museum located in Barcelona, Spain. It was designed by Puig I Cadafalch. A total of 117 buildings from various regions of the country were recreated in Poble Espanyol for the World Fair 1929. It was actually supposed to be demolished after the World Fair, but the popularity of the residents allowed it to stay open. However, during the reign of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, Poble Espanyol began to decline, but was repaired in the 1990s. In Poble Espanyol, you can see all of Spain in one day. Additionally, there is a party room which offers a multimedia experience. Poble Espanyol partners with Fran Duarel Museum and displays artworks of famous artworks, such as Picasso and Dali. Furthermore, local workers and trades are promoted, and tourism has increased greatly due to this little recreation of all of Spain.

Heritage Park
Heritage Park is located in Calgary, Canada, and was created in 1905. Hikers can pose for photos and eat 19th century ice cream. The employees and volunteers of Heritage Park are dressed in character and always have a smile on their faces eager to talk and educate. The park is populated with heritage buildings from around Alberta and walking through the village gives you a true essence of the past. With the sound of the steam engine in the background and horse carts being pulled on the streets, you could as well be in 1905

Millenium City Park
Millenium City Park is located in Kaifeng, Henan. It is a Chinese amusement park inspired by Zhang Zeduan. Visitors can walk around and see the different entertainment that Millenium City Park provides, including performances and fireworks, and you can also pay with Wechat.

Disney Frontierland
Disney Frontierland features a ferry boat ride inspired by Mark Twain. The ferry is called the Columbia, to commemorate the first American ship to circumnavigate the globe. Additionally, they have a rollercoaster inspired by the mining in California. This was criticized for idealizing the dangerous mines and long work hours workers had to endure. Furthermore, they added a Spanish restaurant to represent to diversity of people that journeyed to the frontiers.

Plimoth Patuxet
Plimoth Patuxet, or Plimoth Plantation, is a live museum opened in 1947 about the Mayflower’s Landing. They have a ship called the Mayflower II, and you can see the types of supplies the original pilgrims brought along, and how 100 people survived 10 weeks at sea. However, this live museum is criticized for not mentioning the diseases such as smallpox that the Europeans brought with them to the new world. In fact, more than 90% of all natives died due to these diseases. Tisquantum, or Squanto, was a survivor of such diseases, and helped the pilgrims survive their first winter. They also commented on the fact that the Indigenous people acting as Native Americans were not actually from the local tribes, the Wampanoag. Furthermore, the Native Americans were not in historical costumes, rather in plain navy blue polos and khakis. Plimoth Patuxet is not authentic, had a poor budget, and did not have fair treatment for its Indigenous employees.

bottom of page